A lot of people, myself included, are growing our own vegetables to beat the credit crunch. And why not? Planting a few seeds in containers, in your backyard or in your garden will yield delicious, organic vegetables – and can save money, too! Growing organic vegetables is easier than you think. Here are the 12 vegetables you will have no problem planting, tending for and harvesting in your own garden, even if you are a first-time gardener!
These are particularly easy to grow and can be intercropped with rows of lettuce to take up a minimum amount of space! Great thing about radishes is that very few pests bother them. Choose a sunny, sheltered position in soil, well fed with organic matter. Sow the seed thinly, evenly at ½ inch below the soil’s surface with one inch of space between each. Water the soil thoroughly before sowing and after the seeds emerge water them lightly every couple days. Radishes are a great source of potassium, folic acid, magnesium and calcium, and are perfect in salad dressings or as a garnish for salads. Radishes are fast growers and should be ready to pull in several weeks.
#2. Zucchini/ Squash
Zucchini and squash do well in most climates and they need very little special attention. If you plant zucchini you’ll could end up with way more than they can even eat!
Zucchini and squash are very low in calories but full of potassium, manganese and folate. Sow several zucchini seeds in a heap pile of composted soil a foot high and a couple feet wide. Space each heap pile approximately 3 feet apart, water them heavily every other day and wait for them to sprout in a couple weeks. They should be ready to harvest about a month later. For any early start sow the seeds singly about 1/2 in (1.25cm) deep, in small pots and place in a temperature of 65-70F (18-21C). After germination of seeds, grow on in a well lit spot, harden off and plant out after the last spring frost when the weather is warm.
Carrots tend to be pest free and need little attention. Carrots are rich in vitamin A, antioxidants, carotene and dietary. Dig a hole less than an inch deep and plant a couple of seeds in each, and leave several inches in between holes. Thin out in stages to 4-6in (10-15cm) apart. Keep the soil moist but remember to water the carrots less as they begin to reach maturity.
A highly nutritious and easily grown crop, high in both calcium and iron. Spinach can be eaten plain, cooked, and made into a chip dip. Turn over the soil with compost and plant seeds less than an inch deep, placing them at least 4 inches apart to give room for growth. Pick young leaves regularly. Sow the soil a couple more times in the first month and keep this area well-watered.
Peas are another high-yield crop, both sweet peas and sugar peas. Other than fruit flies, these guys attract very few pests. A good source of vitamins A, B and C. Cultivate the soil just prior to sowing top dress with a balanced fertilizer. Keep in mind that your soil must drain well in order for peas for flourish. Space each seed several inches apart and sow them one inch deep. Freshly planted seeds require 1/2 inch of water every week, while more mature plants need a full inch. Any surplus peas can be frozen very successfully.
Peppers contain nutrients like thiamin and manganese. Peppers can be stuffed with meat and rice or used in salsa and pasta, and raw in salads. Till the soil with compost and Epsom salts, this will make it rich in magnesium to help the peppers develop healthily. Peppers can be produced outside in growing bags, large pots etc. Since they grow best in warm soil, sow the seeds a foot or more apart in raised beds or containers. Water them frequently, keeping the soil moist, or they may taste bitter once harvested.
#7. Lettuce/ Baby Greens
Lettuce is one of the easiest vegetables to grow; you just have to plant the seeds, water and watch how fast it grows. Lettuce is a good source of folic acid and vitamin A, used as the main ingredient mostly in salads, but also can be stuffed with various ingredients to make a lettuce wrap or top sandwiches, hamburgers and tacos. When cultivating the soil with nutrient-rich compost, break up any chunks and remove debris. Make sure that seeds are planted between 8 and 16 inches apart and water them every morning. Avoid doing so at night because this could cause disease. Loose-leaf varieties are ready to start cutting about seven weeks after sowing.
Baby greens are simply greens that are harvested while they are still young and tender. They are true instant gratification vegetables – you’ll be harvesting your first salad in under a month! Sprinkle the seeds as thinly as possible across the soil in a 2- to 3-inch wide band. Space rows of baby greens 6 to 8 inches apart. Or plant baby greens in a pot, and cut your salad fresh every night!
Rich in dietary fiber, folate and vitamin C, onion need little care – just give them plenty of water. Plow the soil a foot deep and get rid of debris. The easiest way to grow onions is from sets which are small onions. Plant sets so that the tip is showing about 5in (13cm) apart in rows 12in (30cm) apart. Or, plant the seeds a couple centimeters deep and several inches apart. Weed this area frequently but gently and provide them with about an inch of water every week.
Beets (beetroots) can be peeled, steamed, and then eaten warm with butter; cooked, pickled, and then eaten cold as a condiment; or peeled, shredded raw, and then eaten as a salad.. Betanin, one of the primary nutrients in this deep red or purple vegetable, can help lower blood pressure. Clean and strengthen the seeds by soaking them in water at room temperature for a day. Plow the soil and remove any stones from the top 3 feet. Plant each seed 2in (5cm) apart, thin out to 4in (10cm) apart and water them at least once every day.
For the most part doesn’t need a lot of special care, broccoli is easily grown vegetable that gives the best return for the space it occupies and is cropped when other green vegetables are in short supply. One row of 15ft (4.5m) will accommodate six plants to give self-sufficiency for a family of four. Sow broccoli seed in spring in a seed bed ½in (1.25cm) deep and transplant when the seedlings are about 4in (10cm) tall 2ft (60cm) apart each way.
There are many benefits to growing tomatoes – they’re tasty, they9re good for you, and the dollar value of the yield can be very significant. Tomatoes are rich in nutrients like niacin, potassium and phosphorous, antioxidants like lycopene, anthocyanin and carotene, and vitamins A, C and E.
Sow the seeds just below the surface in a tray of peat-based compost. When the seedlings have made two pairs of true leaves prick them out into 3in (7.5cm) pots and place them in a light, warm place indoors (like windowsill). After the last danger of frost has passed, pick a spot in your garden that receives at least 6-8 hours of sunlight and test the soil’s pH level – it needs to be between 6 and 7. (To decrease pH level add sulfur, to increase it add lime). Spread compost over this area and mix it with the soil. After hardening off, set tomato plants 2ft (60cm) apart in rows 3ft (90cm) apart, bush plants 3ft (90cm) apart. Water them a couple times per week.
Tomatoes do need a little more attention then the other vegetables on the list. However, for the little bit attention that tomatoes do need, you get an incredible reward in the large amount of fruit that they produce. To help you get started, here is a complete guide to growing tomatoes.
There are many herbs including thyme, rosemary, basil, mint, sage, chives, parsley and oregano that need very little attention and can be grown successfully in containers on a patio, balcony or terrace. Purchase some of your favorite small herb plants from your local nursery and get a container that is at least 6-12 inches deep. You can plant multiple herbs in a wide or long container or use at least a 6″ pot for individual plants and you will enjoy not only their fragrance and beauty but also their culinary benefits. Water sparingly because herbs don’t like to sit in wet soil.
If you are a first time gardener, start slow with any of the vegetables I’ve mentioned. Soon, you will gain confidence and have a beautiful organic vegetable garden!